ABOUT THE BOOK:Zoe Rutherford wasn't sure what she was expecting when she returned to Sullivan's Island. The house on Sullivan's hadn't represented home to her in decades. It was the place where she endured her father's cruelty. It was the place where her mother closed herself off from the world. It was the place where her sister disappeared. But now that her parents are gone, Zoe needs to return to the house, to close it down and prepare it for sale. She intends to get this done as quickly as possible and get on with her life, even though that life seems clouded by her past, both distant and recent. But what she discovers when she gets there is far beyond her imagining and will change her in profound ways.
THE GIRL WHO STAYED is a remarkable exploration of the soul by a writer with a rare talent for reaching into the hearts of her characters and her readers, a novel of transformation that will leave you moved and breathless.
The Girl Who Stayed by Tanya Anne Crosby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Girl Who Stayed by Tanya Anne Crosby is a 2016 Story Plant publication. I was provided a copy of the book by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
If you are familiar with Tanya Anne Crosby, then it’s probably because you enjoy the wonderful historical romance novels she is known for. But, this book is nothing at all like what you are accustomed to reading from this author. This work of contemporary fiction has a personal feel to it, and showcases the author’s talent for weaving a very absorbing and intimate tale.
Zoe has returned home to Sullivan’s Island, fleeing from an abusive relationship, and ready to fix up her family home in order to sell it, so she can move on with her life with a fresh start. But, once she steps foot in the house, she is flooded with painful childhood memories which all seem to center around the disappearance of her younger sister, Hannah. As the story unfolds, we learn about Zoe’s childhood, her family dynamics, her bad marriage, and her best friends, her guilt, remorse, and sorrow.
While Zoe begins work on the house, she reacquaints herself with some of the residents of Sullivan’s Island, and worries over a current missing persons case, fears her ex-husband will find her, all while coping with the torrent of emotions, memories, and nightmares that have loosened within her. But, at the same time, she is beginning to think this place is calling to her, that maybe this is home after all, and above all, it may be time to fight the demons warring for her soul.
This story is hard to categorize in some ways because it has all the elements of a women’s contemporary novel, but is also a mystery with a slow, steady drumming of suspense building in the background. A few characters are hard to read and of course I couldn’t trust them, and neither did Zoe.
The author relies on psychological elements in relaying the events concerning the past and the present day spate of missing persons, the mystery, and the unsettling resolution.
Zoe is a troubled person who has come to a crossroads in her life, and realizes she has settled for a life she shouldn’t have. Leaving her abusive relationship is only the beginning though. Zoe must find a way to put her sister’s disappearance to rest once and for all, which means she needs to find out what really happened to Hannah.
It’s a slow, bitter, harrowing journey that Zoe embarks upon, but it is apparently long overdue. I watched her heartache renewed with each piercing memory that surfaces, watched as she realizes to what depths she has sunk, and saw her began to confront her past, face her fears and take charge of her emotions, actions and her future.
As in real life, the answers are not always pat, but in the end, Zoe will emerge with a new strength, an affirmation of her self-worth, and will know how to let go, to allow herself to experience real peace and love.
While the story is fraught with an underlying edginess, and a crime is solved, the thing I took away from this story was Zoe’s passage from personal recriminations to honesty with herself, at long last, to facing her inner demons, and having the courage to take a stand, to do the right thing for others and for herself.
The story is deep on some levels, but isn’t overly complex. I am sure some will find the pacing a bit frustrating at times, because the story does move erratically. I think the author did an amazing job with the dialect, the scenery, the characterizations, and the insights we are given into Zoe’s personal road to redemption, but she also left some situations open to interpretation, and the reader will simply have to come to terms with that on their own, and I’m not quite sure how some will respond to that challenge.
For me, this is a compelling read, thoroughly engrossing, although very understated at times, with a moody, haunting atmosphere, that led me through a dense fog of moving, intense emotions into a bursting ray of sunshine that left me feeling satisfied with Zoe’s progress and confident in her future happiness.
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